Disorder In The Court – Ruling Could Threaten Content Protections

from the no-one-said-the-law-was-easy-to-follow... dept

News.com is running a very interesting article about a court case that hasn’t received very much attention. As is widely known among techies, part of the “compromise” that ISPs made in getting the Communications Decency Act approved was that they wouldn’t be held liable for content that anyone posts on their service – since they’re just providing the space, and now actually creating the content. This makes sense (even if much of the rest of the CDA didn’t). Now, however, that’s being challenged, by an actress who is blaming an online dating site for posting false info about her. She claims it’s defamation, and the site says it’s protected by that same “service provider” section of the law. The court ruled against the actress on the defamation charge, but did say that the site itself could still be liable – since they helped create the content by asking detailed questions. This ruling scares companies like Amazon and eBay who fear that by asking their user’s feedback questions, they could suddenly be liable for their comments. The case has been appealed and will be heard at some later date. The court was wrong in this case. If the actress wanted to go after anyone, it should have been whoever actually posted the defaming information – and not the site itself. It’s a clear case of lawyers going after where the money is. If the ruling is upheld it’ll start a flurry of ridiculous, similar lawsuits against anyone who hosts any sort of online forum – thus wiping out the nice interactive part of many online websites.

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